As the days leading up to my departure for the Pacific Northwest at the end of August dwindle, the to do-lists grow longer and my attention span shrinks. The urge to multi-task grows as voracious as Audrey Two, the carnivorous houseplant from The Little Shop of Horrors (though I make my payments in mouse clicks rather than blood). Can I study for my Commercial Driver’s License Permit test while posting a search on Craigslist for a headlamp to replace my old one (R.I.P., good buddy), while also making sure my online bill pay is airtight for the months to come? Thanks to the internet, caffeine, and sheer desperation, yes, yes I can. In the midst of such madness, though, there is a saving grace.
This year, I had the sense to recognize the deep itch in my brain and hollow pocket in my gut for what they were- signs that my waa had gone quiet. Before you flee back to Facebook, where the decent Christian folk commune, let me reassure you I’m not about to take this blog X-rated. While studying Traditional Chinese Medicine and Integrative Nutrition in northern California, I had the good fortune to learn bodywork from master teacher Sara Peterson. One day in class, Sara undertook to explain the difference between the New Age lingo and floofy paraphernalia that accessorize alternative health culture, and real healing work. Pacing the room with her restless ultrarunner’s grace, Sara stated that all of the bullshit, the fake shamans and plastic dream catchers and vials of sparkles marketed “fairy dust” were classic “woo woo”. The “waa waa” happens in silence, stillness, and connection. You feel the waa in the presence of capital “T” truth and capital “B” beauty, and that’s where the healing happens.
I’ve been studying health and wellness in one form or another since college. I’ve read, worked in, or been worked over by most of the major healing modalities, from the western to the the waa with a few detours into woo along the way. The study and practice of wellness is as much a part of me as my pointy elbows and love of pattern clashing, but when I moved to Vermont to take a job as a non-profit administrator, the waa took a snooze. This year, when I enrolled in Year One of a sacred plant medicine apprenticeship, it woke up.
Once again, I find myself immersed in a world of green, growing things, in folk and indigenous medicine, and the wonder of the body’s constant bid for balance. The course is an opportunity to take my training in nutrition, environmental education, and alternative medicine to the next level, not to mention reclaim our common birthright. This is the innate knowledge of what our bodies need, and the attunement to find our perfect medicine in nature, often in the simple experience of nature itself.
So now I’m that girl in the parking lot, bustling around her car with bags of cut-up roots, a mason jar, and some vodka, smiling like an idiot as she mixes up a tincture to get her through her rootless months.
Her passenger side is often occupied thusly…
And her back seat is full of oils and tinctures brewing in jars that clink and clunk as she trolls Vermont’s byways for the perfect spot to harvest more roadside medicine.
All of the old knowledge (the western, the woo, and the waa) comes back to me a little more each day, and each day I feel a little more myself. A little bigger, if that makes sense. This is so good for me, and I hope it will be good for my students, as we converge for a journey that I can only hope will help us all learn more about how to be the waa we wish to see in the world.